Today is the 53rd anniversary of the Boeing 727’s first flight. What a day. At the time, the 727 was a risk and important to the success of Boeing. Luckily for everyone, not only was the first flight a huge success, but the aircraft would go on to help redefine domestic air travel.
Its three iconic engines also helped to build aviation fans around the world; it is still a favorite among AvGeeks today.
To help celebrate the first flight’s anniversary, we reached out to Boeing to see if we could get some photos, and they delivered! We were told that some “haven’t seen the light of day in 50 years.” Rock on!
The first 727 (registration N7001U) rolled out of the Boeing factory on November 27, 1962 and took flight (from Renton Field to Paine Field) on February 9, 1963. It was then used for a year as a Boeing test flight aircraft before being delivered to United Airlines on October 6, 1964.
With United, it flew 64,495 hours, with 48,060 takeoffs and landings. After being repainted to its original livery, N7001U flew in January 1991 from Boeing Field to Paine Field, where it has been sitting ever since.
“The 727 is an amazing story and a lesson for us today,” Michael Lombardi, corporate historian with The Boeing Company, explained to AirlineReporter. “The tri-jet was developed under crushing adversity and the decision to go forward was seen as a tremendous financial risk.”
“Here we are more than thirty years after the last one rolled off the line it is still one of the best selling commercial jets in history,” Lombardi continued.
“The credit goes to Boeing President Bill Allen for accepting the risk and trusting his team, but more so to that team, lead by Jack Steiner who firmly believed that his people were capable of far greater accomplishments if they were stimulated by goals that they recognized as almost unachievable and kept them focused on designing the right airplane for the market.” And… they nailed it.
Boeing was initially planning to build about 250 of the 727. But a total of 1,832 were built until production halted in 1984. For some perspective, (McDonnell) Douglas built 976 DC-9 aircraft, and the Boeing 707 did 1,010.
Even today, the 727 is still flying. Some with cargo, charter airlines, private jets, and a few airlines you probably have never heard of.
As we celebrate the first 727’s first flight, we also prepare for the aircraft’s final flight. It has been sitting at the Museum of Flight’s Restoration Center at Paine Field for a long time. It has slowly been restored to flight-worthy condition. Although many have thought this would never happen, the final flight is just around the corner. Lots of people are excited to see it once again take to the skies, especially one particular pilot.
“I think from a pilot’s perspective, it is interesting to note Lew Wallick’s comment that of all the Boeing projects he worked on, he was most proud being the Chief Test Pilot on the 727,” Tim Powell, current 727 pilot and the one set to fly N7001U’s final flight, told AirlineReporter. “With Lew honing the flight characteristics of the 727 and it being the first Boeing airliner with all-hydraulic-powered flight controls, that aircraft is truly a pilot’s airplane!”
Really, thanks goes to the amazing people who have been working on the project for so many years. Their passion, dedication, and love for this plane are immeasurable. Be sure to keep up with the current status of the 727’s final flight and when it does fly, we will be watching and sharing here and via our Twitter account.